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What is Resilience?

When we talk about resilience we mean a persons ability to cope with the ups and downs of life. Children need to cope with the challenges they might face throughout their childhood. These challenges vary from the usual little ones like a school test, a sports trial, to the more difficult upsets such as bereavement, illness in the family etc. 

Resilience is important for our mental health. It is a skill we take with us into adulthood. The more resilient a person is, the less stress they experience. The good news is that resilience can be learned. it is like a muscle that can be strengthened with exercise. We need to give children opportunities to develop resilience. 

Babies are great examples of displaying reliance. A baby learning to walk will not give up, no matter how many times he falls down. he gets up again and again until he has this business of walking mastered.

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What can we do?

Parents and teachers have an important role to play in the development of resilience. Modelling good coping skills, teaching problem solving and assisting children to solve their own problems are all essential to promote resilience in children. Children are more likely to become strong and resilient when there are supports around them from home, from school and from their community. It is important that we work together to ensure that we are supporting our children to be strong, confident problem solvers.

We have put together the following suggestions as a start to our year of resilience. 

  • Build a strong emotional connection: Spend one-on-one time with your children. Kids develop coping skills within the context of caring relationships. This means putting down the smartphone and being fully present. When children know they have the unconditional support of a parent, family member, or even a teacher, they feel empowered to seek guidance and work through their problems.

  • Acknowledge and label emotions: When children are under stress, they can become very emotional. Tell them it's okay to feel anxious, jealous, disappointed etc.  but that these feelings will pass. 

  • Provide opportunities for Disappointment: A child will encounter lots of disappointments and will need to learn to cope. Opportunities to experience little disappointments like losing a game of snakes and ladders will help prepare children for bigger upsets. 

  • Promote healthy risk-taking: When children push themselves out of their comfort zone, for example going to the shop on a message for mum, visiting a neighbouring class on an errand for the teacher, they are strengthening their belief in themselves Creating opportunities for children to take these healthy risks is hugely important, as when they avoid risks, they internalise the message that they aren't strong enough to handle challenges. 

  • Resist the urge to fix it: When children are grappling with a problem, the adult instinct is often to take over, to try to solve it for them. A more helpful strategy would be to bounce the problem back by asking questions like, what can you do? How can you avoid this happening again, what have you learned etc. Teach problem-solving skills by brainstorming solutions.

  • Demonstrate coping skills: Deep breathing exercises help kids relax and calm themselves when they experience stress or frustration. This enables them to remain calm and process the situation calmly. 

  • Embrace mistakes: Failure avoiders lack resilience. Rather they tend to be anxious. Mistakes are a part of learning. Embracing mistakes helps promote a growth mindset, so important for mental health and happiness.

  • Model resilience: Actions speak louder than words. The best way to teach resilience is to model it. Label your emotions, talk through your problem-solving strategies. 

  • Play: The modern child is very busy, having multiple extracurricular activities. While these activities have a role in our children's development, it seems that the good old fashioned playtimes are losing out. Free, unsupervised play provides ample opportunities to learn invaluable social skills such as turn-taking, compromise, losing gracefully, empathy, creative play etc Unsupervised, unscheduled time can also provide that important "downtime", so important for recharging batteries and just enjoying being a child!. Ensure your child has time for this precious part of childhood.

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